Ratings for ITV1's new News at Nine predictably went through the roof last night (19 March), as the countdown to war with Iraq neared its climax, writes Luke Satchell
Despite there being very little actual news to broadcast as the allies waited for their 01.00 deadline to expire, 8 million people (33.2% share) tuned in to the bulletin for half an hour. It was the highest audience for an ITV1 news bulletin since September 11 2001. BBC1's bulletin, which started at 22.00 last night, pulled in 7.5 million (35.2%).
ITV1 today announced News at Nine will go out seven days a week until further notice. A spokesperson for the broadcaster said that during the conflict "it is crucial that our viewers know exactly where and when they can find up-to-date news, even at weekends so it makes sense to run a regular 9 o' clock bulletin right across the week."
Other ITV1 news scheduling changes include extended lunchtime and early evening bulletins, extra morning coverage between 9.25 and 10.30 and rolling news throughout the night simulcast on ITV1 and the News Channel.
Elsewhere in the ratings last night viewers flocked to ITV1's long-running soaps and dramas but to little else that was not news-related. Viewers in multi-channel homes were clearly surfing the specialist news channels, as is demonstrated by the 20% share accrued by the non-terrestrials across peaktime.
Emmerdale at 19.00 pulled in 9.5 million (44.2%), resigning BBC1's Diet Trials to just 4.8 million (22.3%). Coronation Street at 19.30 had 13.8 million, beating a Changing Rooms repeat on BBC1 which had just 3.2 million (13.6%).
The Bill returned to form at 20.00, with an audience of 8.2 million (33.8%), almost twice as many as the 4.8 million (17%) who watched Britain's Worst?High street on BBC1.
Average peaktime shares for Wednesday 19 March: ITV1 - 34.5%, BBC1 - 23.8%, Channel 4 - 8.9%, BBC2 - 7.8%, Five - 5.0%, Others - 20.0 %